In 2016 we awarded the eighth Photo Urbanism Fellowship to photojournalist Gareth Smit to document Staten Island's North Shore in a time of transformation.
Staten Island’s waterfront, home to hundreds of artists and arts organizations in the Naturally Occurring Cultural District of St. George, Tompkinsville, and Stapleton, hosts multiple development projects currently underway. This diverse downtown community faces difficult challenges in planning for cohesive, quality public space. A professional jury selected Gareth Smit for the Design Trust’s Future Culture Photo Urbanism Fellowship, in partnership with Staten Island Arts and the Alice Austen House, to express a critical perspective on this diverse cultural community.
Gareth describes his approach to photography as "centered on people." He "believe[s] strongly in the power of the visual image to document and communicate on a level beyond the written word.” In 2015 Gareth photographed in Tompkinsville documenting the period leading up to the anniversary of Eric Garner's unfortunate death. Through the Future Culture Photo Urbanism Fellowship, he aims to "develop [his] work there further to explore the cultural community and changing urban landscape of Staten Island."
Gareth's photography complements the parallel Design Trust project, Future Culture—an experiment in ways for artists and developers to engage in planning their community together, by creating long-term strategies for neighborhood revitalization, sustainability, and equitable economic development. His resulting photos were featured in a culminating exhibition at Staten Island Arts' Culture Lounge, and a solo exhibition at the Alice Austen House in 2017.
An ongoing program of the Design Trust for Public Space, Photo Urbanism provides fellowships to photographers to create a body of work about the role of public space in New York City.
In 2011, we adopted a new curatorial approach to the program, by linking the fellowship more directly to an active Design Trust project. By focusing the fellowship on a particular public space issue, we give the photographer access to communities and sites they would be unable to enter alone. In turn, the photographer’s artistic vision brings a new perspective, informing and illuminating the potential of our city’s undiscovered and under-used public spaces.
The first fellowship awarded under these new guidelines went to Rob Stephenson to work in tandem with our Five Borough Farm project. Krisanne Johnson received the second fellowship to work in tandem with our Under the Elevated project.
Strongly rooted in the documentary and reportage tradition, my practice of photography is heavily reliant on story.